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Sabinoso Wilderness opens to public Friday after long delay

The Sabinoso Wilderness in northern New Mexico will finally become accessible to the general public beginning at noon today (Friday, Nov. 10).

The U.S. Interior Department announced late Thursday that the pristine habitat for elk, mule deer, and other wildlife is for the first time accessible to the public for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities. The 16,000-acre Sabinoso had been surrounded by non-federal land, making it inaccessible to the general public.

The private donation of 3,595 acres formerly known as the Rimrock Rose Ranch adjacent to the Wilderness was accepted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and will allow for the public access. Click here for New Mexico’s hunting rules and regulations.

“I’m happy to announce today the Sabinoso Wilderness Area is finally open and accessible to hunters and all members of the public for the first time ever,” Zinke said.

The rugged and remote wilderness area is east of Las Vegas in San Miguel County in northeastern New Mexico. The Sabinoso Wilderness boasts some of the most pristine elk habitat in the country. Zinke had previously voiced concerns about accepting the donated ranch as wilderness itself and whether there should other kinds of access beyond on foot or horseback.

“I originally had concerns about adding more wilderness-designated area, however after hiking and riding the land it was clear that access would only be improved,” Zinke said Thursday.

The rugged area in San Miguel County was designated by Congress as a Wilderness Area in 2009. Sen. Martin Heinrich, an ardent hunter, had introduced legislation to open the Sabinoso Wilderness to the public. Heinrich, Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan all cheered the announcement late Thursday.

“This is a major gain for New Mexico and would not be possible without the generosity of the Wilderness Land Trust and the dedication of the local community and sportsmen who have championed this effort for many years,” Heinrich said.

Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers president and CEO, said Thursday was “a good day for public access.”

“A deal has been signed to expand and provide access to the Sabinoso Wilderness, which until today was the only inaccessible wilderness in the United States,” Tawney said. “Sen. Heinrich and Sen. Udall deserve major kudos for their unwavering doggedness to get this project across the finish line. Sec. Zinke deserves credit for listening to hunters and recognizing a good deal for all Americans. The generous landowner who made possible this victory has set an example for others to follow. Finally, sportsmen and women deserve credit for raising their voices. We have been heard.”

Directions to the Sabinoso Wilderness, according to the Bureau of Land Management: “From I-25 take exit 345 on to NM104 heading east.  Travel 32.7 miles east to Trujillo, NM.  Turn left on to San Miguel County Road C51A at Trujillo and travel east for approximately 7 miles on an improved dirt road.  Follow BLM directional signs by turning left at the Y and heading north for 3 miles on the lightly maintained route to the Sabinoso Wilderness parking area.  This road is not passable when wet.  Please leave gates as you find them.”


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